Despite protestations by the Air Force and DOD, many lawmakers seem determined that the Pentagon should review industrial base issues in the reconsideration of the KC-X tanker award. In marking up the 2009 defense spending bill (see above), the House Appropriations defense panel has stipulated that “industrial base concerns be included in the evaluation of the tanker contract award.” In discussing the original award to the Northrop Grumman/EADS team, Air Force acquisition chief Sue Payton said federal regulations currently do not permit such consideration. And, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared the industrial base issue would not be a factor, saying even the Government Accountability Office, in its sustainment of the Boeing protest, had passed the Air Force approach.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.